What Is The Difference Between Indie And Triple-A?

The indie game scene has flourished this generation, and there are no signs of it stopping in the next. Several of the games released as indie titles explore themes that have not been explored very often, while others take an old concept and add enough to it to make it feel new again. Over the past few years, indie games have seen huge success, such as the recent State of Decay, which sold over two million copies despite only having been out for a few months. The games industry is a weird one in that these indie titles, often developed by only a handful of people, are capable of standing up to the massive triple-A titles in their own respects. Now, I am not saying that indie games sell nearly as much as most AAA games, but a lot of indie games see higher critical reception than triple-A due to their risky premises and/or fun gameplay.

I often ask myself what the exact difference between indie games and triple-A games is, and I always have a hard time nailing it. In my opinion, though, indie games are defined by a small dev team, most likely a small budget, and less coverage than a standard triple-A title. AAA games often have multiple teams working on different components of them, an absurdly huge budget, usually large amounts of advertisement, and a large publisher capable of producing said advertisement and game. While it would sound like triple-A devs have it all, I would argue that the opposite is true, and that indie development is really the place to be right now. Indie studios often have trouble finding publishers, or getting their game out in the open and creating buzz around it as early as triple-A games can, but once a unique concept for an indie game is revealed and it is shown that people want that kind of game, the game will create hype all on its own, without needless amounts of money being spent on advertisements that some people may never see. Granted, the hype that surrounds these indie games may never touch that of a triple-A game, but the profit needed for the game to be successful is much lower than in other types of games.

All too often we hear of triple-A games that, while they sold several million copies, failed to reach projected sales, while we almost never hear of that for successful indie games. More often than not the leading problem for developing indie games is not a lack of money, it is a lack of time. This is where triple-A games usually shine. When a game has an incredibly large team working on various parts of it, odds are it will get done faster than if a similar games was being made by a few people on the side. Of course, sometimes deadlines are applied on triple-A devs by publishers which disrupts this point a bit.

In my opinion, big publishers are the worst part of a triple-A development team. While they often fund the titles being developed, that also means that they get to control release date, pricing, and schedules for the development team. One thing that I would like to see go is the brutal hours many game devs are forced to work come deadline, some having to sleep at the office because they simply do not have the time to go home and rest. This is much less common with indie games, and that is definitely a good thing.

Both types of games have their benefits, of course. Indie games allow for experimentation while triple-A usually stick with what they know and just try to make a fun game. Both of these methods of developing games help provide a balance to our industry, and I find it hard to imagine that one could thrive without the other.